Washington: After months of speculation and hinting, Joe Biden has officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in the 2020 US election.
Biden, the 76-year-old former vice-president and senator from Delaware enters a crowded field of competitors, but polls in recent weeks have consistently shown him leading the pack, perhaps because of his experience and lengthy record in office.
But unlike some of his much younger opponents, it’s his well-documented history of confusing or downright embarrassing gaffes and misstatements, that may end up working against him. Here are some memorable moments:
The Biden touch
Infamously in 2015, while Ashton Carter was being sworn in as the secretary of defence, Biden put his hands on his wife Stephanie’s shoulders, rubbing them and appearing to whisper in her ear.
“Joe Biden, We Need to Talk About the Way You Touch Women,” Gawker wrote at the time, collecting a series of photo ops in which Biden appears to behave in an overly familiar way with women young and old alike. “America Shouldn’t Tolerate ‘Biden Being Biden,’” Time remarked.
The living and the dead
In 2010, at a St Patrick’s Day reception for Brian Cowen, Biden got confused over which of the then Irish prime minister’s parents had passed away. “His mum lived in Long Island for 10 years or so, God rest her soul,” he said, before catching his mistake. “Although she’s, wait. Your mum’s still alive. It was your dad that passed. God bless her soul. I gotta get this straight,” Biden said to a big laugh from the crowd, showing that even when he screws up, his supporters often find it charming.
Stand up for America
At a campaign stop in Missouri in 2008, then vice-presidential nominee Biden exhorted state senator Chuck Graham to stand up for a round of applause. Graham is a paraplegic after a car accident he had at age 16.
“Stand up, Chuck, let them see you,” Biden said. “Oh, God love ya, what am I talking about,” Biden said. “I tell you what, you’re making everybody else stand up though, pal,” he said. He added: “You can tell I’m new.”
In the midst of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 2007, Biden took broad swipes at his opponents Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, including one that was downright puzzling about the future president.
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
“Joe Biden: moron racist, or poorly transcribed?” the Economist asked. Biden swiftly attempted to clarify his intent, saying he should have used the word “fresh” instead of “clean” on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “What I meant was that he’s got new ideas, he’s a new guy on the block,” he said, while Stewart looked on sceptically. “It’s not working, right?” he joked to laughter from the audience.
Crazy ‘Uncle Joe’
As troubling as some of his misstatements might be, and as serious some of the concerns people have about Biden’s retrograde positioning among a new crop of progressive candidates, a sizeable percentage of the US electorate finds the often goofy Biden charming. It didn’t hurt matters that Obama often reacted to them with bemusement. “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly,” Obama quipped after a typically confusing statement from Biden about the passage of a stimulus package in 2010.
Gaffer in chief
In 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke about the prospect of squaring off against Biden if he had ended up running. “I hope it’s Biden,” Trump said again last month. “When I say something that you might think is a gaffe, it’s on purpose. It’s not a gaffe. When Biden says something dumb, it’s because he’s dumb.”
“I am a gaffe machine,” Biden admitted in December when asked about potential liabilities of his campaign. “But my God what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he said.